Firas Khoury's debut Palestinian-Israeli teen feature film ALAM took home three awards at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) on Tuesday.
To be more specific, the film managed to win the Golden Pyramid Award – the festival's top accolade for outstanding films in the international competition – the Best Actor Award for Palestinian actor Mahmood Bakri.
Also, in a rare instance of artistic quality colliding with public success, it won the Youssef Cherif Rizkallah's Audience Award, which is based on direct votes from the festival's attendees.
The film was praised for its artistic quality and approach, receiving much applause during and after its three full-house screenings at the CIFF.
The Golden Pyramid Award was presented to the film's producer Naomie Lagadec, as the director could not come to the festival.
Meanwhile, Meriame Deghedi - Head of Sales and Acquisitions at MAD Solutions, which is managing the film's distribution across the Arab world - received the Best Actor Award, while the Audience Award was handed to Lagoonie Film Production's CEO Shahinaz Al-Akkad.
"When I was young, I remember watching the Cairo International Film Festival's closing ceremony on TV with my family and being captivated by the joyful atmosphere that brings together all of our favorite stars," said Khoury in a statement.
"You can imagine how happy I am right now. Thank you, Cairo, and thank you Egypt."
"This film is my gift to the next generation of Palestinians, who will not accept the occupation or feel inferior in the face of its invader. You are our pride, and you are the reason this film was made. We shall not grow weary of shouting 'Freedom for Palestine' until our aim, Egypt's goal, and the will of all free people around the globe are met," he added.
Tamer and his friends lead typical teenage lives until one day, he is swept off his feet by the arrival of the beautiful Maysaa. As he grows closer to her, Tamer agrees to take part in a mysterious and life-changing operation dubbed 'Alam.'
"I want to thank the jury and the Cairo International Film Festival for this honor, which I'm grateful for and proud of," Bakri said. "The award was a wonderful surprise for me, and I wish I could have been there to accept it in person, as well as to congratulate and thank everyone who contributed to the film's creation and success. Finally, I would like to thank my mother, father, and brothers for their unwavering support."
In early December, ALAM will make its second stop in the Arab World at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it will be featured in the Festival Favorites category.
Previously, ALAM held its world premiere at the 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival's Contemporary World Cinema category. It was then featured at the Rome Film Festival.
The film earned widespread worldwide acclaim, with Cineuropa's Laurence Boyce describing Firas Khoury's debut feature as "a fiery and engaging exploration of youth, politicization, and forced forgetting," adding that "the performances are strong, particularly from Bakri in the lead."
Written and directed by Firas Khoury, ALAM stars Mahmood Bakri, Sereen Khass, Saleh Bakri, Mohammad Karaki, Ahmad Zaghmouri, and Muhammad Abed Elrahman.
ALAM is co-produced by Marie Pierre Macia, Claire Gadéa, Naomie Lagadec, Melik Kochbati, and Ossama Bawardi, as well as Lacydon Bay Productions, Metafora Production, and the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation.
The movie's DOP Frida Marzouk and was edited by Nadia Ben Rachid.
Furthermore, the film is co-distributed by MAD Solutions and Lagoonie Film Production across the Arab world.
Additionally, ALAM received a grant from the Doha Film Institute and a $20,000 script development grant from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival's SANAD Fund.
It was also chosen to participate in the Cinéfondation Workshop at the 2017 edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Moreover, it was featured at the 2019 Venice GAP-Financing Market and received a $10,000 grant from Cairo Film Connection – the CIFF's Co-Production Market – and was featured at the Atlas Workshops of the Marrakech International Film Festival.
Firas Khoury's filmography includes several short films, including the award-winning SEVEN DAYS IN DEIR BULUS (2007) and YELLOW MUMS (2010), which were featured in festivals around the world and on TV.
In 2019, he directed MARADONA'S LEGS – a short film that received the Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prize as well as Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg's support. Moreover, it was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and began airing on Netflix in October 2021.
Aside from filmmaking, Khoury is passionate about disseminating Palestinian films and training youths. He also taught cinematic expression at the Freedom Theater's School of Cinema in Jenin Refugee Camp at the University of Nazareth, the Al-Mashghal Arab Center for Arts & Culture in Haifa.
Khoury is also a Co-Founder of Group Falastinema, which organizes film workshops and screenings across Palestine.